Leave the Cat. Take the Chainsaw.


Suppose late one night you’re aroused from uneasy dreams by an unfamiliar noise. Flames crackle outside your window. No Emergency Broadcast Signal, no wailing sirens, but the fire is loud. Deafening, as the trees which overhang your house spark up like 60 foot matches.  You have quick decisions to make.  Hold on. Let me find my glasses, first, jeez….  

No time for glasses.

Where are my good boots?
Forget the good boots! Let’s go!
It’s crazy out there. I’m not going anywhere without my good boots.

Pushed off the headlines by more telegenic fires south in Santa Rosa, rural Mendocino County endured a fire last week you may not have heard of.  It originated with a downed power line after midnight. The initial conflagration overtook rural neighborhoods before people could evacuate in an orderly manner.    Most were informed of the firestorm, if at all, by fleeing neighbors, and only then if their house was convenient to the road. Those who hesitated, even for minutes, perished.  Dozens of residents remain missing.

My parents had a ringside seat from just beyond the evacuation zone, and the good fortune to have several days to watch the smoke and perfect an escape plan, should the worse-case scenario occur. I asked them what would they put in their Go Bag.

Paintings. (Really? Yes.) A few framed photographs. The laptop. ID’s and financial papers, naturally.  A violin. And oh yeah, the chainsaw. 

Yes, the chainsaw!  You never know when you might come in handy.  It has served him well over the years.

They were leaving the cat, however. “Every time we’ve put him in the car, even to the vet, he’s made a run for it.”   In their defense, they’re in their 70’s, an age oriented toward shedding burdens.

Gaming out a list like this works to God’s amusement, and one can’t help but wonder at the speed the list would unravel should they be forced to yield the car to the flames and make a dash though the woods. My mother I suspect would cling to the violin, which she doesn’t play, as a matter of principle.  The better question would be: In the rush to flee would my father remember to fill the chainsaw with gas? Or Would he be running through the woods carrying a 50lb gun which had no bullets? Probably yes. Which would make the chainsaw vs. violin debate rather academic.  He’d make her get rid of the violin.

Mrs. UpintheValley, decidedly Not A Cat Abandoner, has made a pre-decision to shelter in place come hellfire or zombies, and to that end ran out and bought survival equipment.  The entire conversation as to who to take and who to leave is anathema to her.

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The obligations of love require me to perish by her side, so I’m doing the sensible thing.  I’m buying bullets.